Sunday, July 12, 2009

Camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains

It was starting to become beyond ridiculous. Two years living in North Carolina, and never a drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains, which run down the western border of the state. I always thought it was very cool that where we ended up settling for this chapter of our life journey was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which like Hawaii, sits between a drive one direction to the mountains and the other direction to the ocean. So how it is that we had gone so long without taking advantage of those mountains, I shall never understand.

But now we can sleep well at night. Last week we drove with Drew, Alicia and their baby Korven to the Blue Ridge Mountains for an overnight camping trip. For work reasons it was only a one-nighter, but considering our hellish sleeping set-up with thin sheets on cold, rock-hard ground (we failed to bring sleeping bags), one night was plenty long enough.

Our first stop was to Linville Caverns. The tour cost $7, and in my opinion was well worth the price because of the interesting facts and lamp-lit, dry path. The entire area is called the Linville area (there is also a Linville Falls, and a Linville Gorge, etc.), and the caverns were discovered a few hundred years ago by fisherman following trout that were venturing into a hole in the side of the mountain. The caverns basically follow the path of the underground river, and a heavy rope 250 feet long was once dropped down to measure the distance to the bottom and never hit it. The temperature in the caves is 52 degrees F year round, and the water is much colder!

The nook behind us in the above picture is called the Colonial Fireplace, because during the Civil War, deserters hid in the caves and used the space for their fires. The smoke made it's way out through very small pores in the rock, and the men were undiscovered until the locals started to wonder why the mountain was smoking...

With the help of a local man at a gas station, we were able to avoid the $30 a tent campsites, and find a very secluded, free option just down the road from the back entrance to Linville Falls. Because we had to gather the firewood and had nothing but a lighter to start us off, we were very proud of the blaze we created. Below is the view from Wiseman's Lookout, which was also very close to our campsite.

You'd think that I'd be able to narrow down the photo selection a bit more, but no, I can't. As dusk came on, the color of the mountains became more blue, and those blue layers just got me smitten...

Dinner: hotdogs and the works, and s'mores. You can see how Marcos made his dog more "gourmet" with all of those slits.

And then it was our turn for kiddo duty. Marcos reads to Korven...

At sunset the guys went over to Wiseman's Lookout.

Day two: In the morning, we cooked sausage links we had brought, and ate them with Hawaiian sweet bread roles. Considering we had no access to water or electricity, we ate really well. I love this next picture of Marcos...

Linville Falls! After eating breakfast, packing up the campsite and making bagel sandwiches for lunch, we drove a few minutes back down the road to the falls trailhead. The falls were really fun. After growing up in Hawaii, I've noticed that waterfalls and beaches in other places have a very high standard to live up to... And those tall mature trees towering over us in the last frame were gorgeous, and reminded me of trail hikes in Oregon, one of my other favorite states.

The ride home was so gorgeous. We rode along the Blue Ridge Parkway for about a half hour, and pulled over at every lookout so that I could find the perfect view with the blue layered mountains. What do you think of the photo below? Are you sold yet?

Our last stop: about half way home we stopped at a random little town, found their public park, and Marcos pulled a fast one on our cold watermelon and cracked it into two pieces on the side of a brick wall. We had no knife, but that was the last thing on our minds as we dug into our melon bowls and cold watermelon juice ran down our chins.

What a great trip! Thanks Drew and Alicia for inviting us, and thanks Drew for the planning and preparations. It was a perfect few days and we're already excited for our next adventure!


Unknown said...

wow. It looks like you guys had a great time! You need to talk to scott about making hammocks. They are a lot more comfortable than sleeping on rocks. :)

Also, I like that photo of the four of you looking at the waterfall. Who took it? Korven?

TD said...

the blue ridge mountains rock! Gavin and hiked and camped all over them during law school in Virginia. Glad you got the chance and that you can check that off the list.